In the decade between 1990 and 2000 the cost of asthma care went up 54%, according to Family Practice News (October 1, 2000:5). Perhaps if more focus was placed on diet, lifestyle and supplementation these costs could be reduced. Also, a bit more attention should be paid to drug therapy and efforts should be made to reduce drug intake. Inhaler overuse is an important issue, and can lead to increased hospitalizations and death. An article appearing in Family Practice News (April 15, 1993;46) stated that deaths from asthma could be cut by 50% if physicians monitored beta agonist inhaler overuse by patients. An inhaler should last one month, but often prescriptions are given with unlimited refills and the doctor has no idea how often the patient is using the inhaler. Other medications can contribute to asthma attacks. An article in the Annals of Allergy (June 1992;68:453-462) stated that drugs may be responsible for as many as 10% of asthma attacks. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be responsible for 2/3 of these drug-induced attacks. Other drugs, like muscle relaxants, beta-blockers, or antibiotics can trigger asthma attacks as well.
Diet is seldom stressed by the medical establishment, but it plays a role in asthma. Research appearing in the European Respiratory Journal (2009; 33:33-41) looked at the dietary habits of 54,672 French women and the association with asthma attacks. Of the subjects, 1,063 currently had asthma with 206 having asthma attacks at least once per week. There was a strong correlation between the frequency of asthma attacks the adherence to a “Western” diet including pizza, cured meats, sweets and other processed foods. Also the types of fats in the diet affect asthma symptoms, according to research appearing in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2005; 59(12): 1335-46). It found that omega-3 fatty acids were especially helpful for preventing exercise induced bronchospasm. This was supported by a review article appearing in the Australian New Zealand Journal of Medicine (1994;24:727), which found that a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids and high in omega-6 fatty acids, and the increased use of margarine may be part of the reason that asthma is on the rise. The article notes that asthma is low in Scandinavia and in Mediterranean countries where there is less omega-6 consumption and more consumption of omega-3 and olive oil.
In Clinical and Experimental Allergy (2000;30:615-627) reviewed research about nutrients that may affect asthma. Magnesium supplementation was found to reduce bronchial reactivity; magnesium is also a mild broncodilator. Vitamin C intake has been shown to reduce exercise induced asthma. Vitamin C levels tend to be low in athmatics. Research in the journal Thorax (2009; 64(7): 610-9) also reviewed nutritional studies related to asthma and the intake of antioxidants, namely vitamins A, C and E. The authors concluded that “Relatively low dietary intakes of vitamins A and Care associated with statistically significant increased odds of asthma and wheeze.” This was echoed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1995;61(Suppl.):625S-630S). A study appearing in the journal Thorax (May 2006; 61: 388 – 393) looked at 1,030 subjects and found that dietary vitamin C and manganese intake were inversely associated with asthma symptoms.
Diet is a simple and inexpensive way to improve asthma symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, manganese and antioxidant supplementation (especially vitamin C) can be of value t these patients. Unfortunately diet and supplementation are seldom recommended in medical offices.